Going through a divorce is a very stressful and emotionally draining ordeal that can take a large toll on your life; especially when time with child and custody issues are at stake. One of the most important parts of a divorce is maintaining the relationship with your children. Concerning your children and what is in their best interests is the issue of custody, visitation and how much time you will spend with your children and when is an integral part of any divorce involving minor children.
There is a common belief that the children are usually able to choose which parent they will primarily live with. This is partially true; for example under Georgia law a child who is eleven years of age or older may state a preference as to which parent the child wishes to live with. However, at that age, the child’s choice of custodial parent does not control the court’s custody decision. Rather, the court will still has complete discretion to decide what is in the best interest of the child and which parent the child should primarily live with.
But once a child reaches the age of fourteen, the child’s choice will be honored unless the court determines that it is not in the best interest of the child. When deciding what is in the best interest of the child in Georgia, a judge may consider a number of factors. These factors include but are not limited to:
- each parent’s home environment and ability to care for and nurture the child;
- each parent’s physical and mental health;
- each parent’s emotional ties to the child;
- each parent’s ability to provide the child with clothing, food, and medical care;
- the relationship between the child and any siblings, half-siblings, or step siblings who are in either parent’s home;
- each parent’s familiarity with the child’s health, educational, and social needs;
- each parent’s involvement in the child’s schooling and extra-curricular activities;
- each parent’s willingness to foster a relationship between the child and the non-custodial parent;
- the relative stability of each parent;
- any history of substance abuse by either parent;
- any history of physical abuse, sexual abuse, or neglect of children by either parent; and
- if there is any criminal history for either parent.
Apart from the best interest of the child, the Georgia courts also requires parents that are going through a divorce to make and submit a parenting plan when custody is an issue. There is the possibility to make a joint parenting plan or each parent can submit their own parenting plan. The parenting plan outlines the child’s needs and how the child’s time should be divided between the parents, including holidays and extended vacation time. The parenting plan should also allocate decision-making authority between then parents and explain the details of each parent’s access to the child. A detailed parenting plan will also discuss issues such as transportation, email, phone calls and other communications. The court will consider the parents’ proposed parenting plan or plans as part of the information to be considered in determining the best interest of the child.
If you are facing a child custody and visitation issue in the Atlanta, Alpharetta, Cumming, Roswell, Milton, Johns Creek, Marietta, Norcross, Gwinnett, Cobb, Forsyth, DeKalb, Fulton and Atlanta, Georgia metro-areas, call us at 770-609-1247 to discuss with an attorney how we can assist you.